"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

July 31, 2011

Charlotte and Wilbur

Charlotte, left, and Wilbur in their private pasture earlier this summer.
We found several calves in the pastures in late winter and early spring who were ill or whose mother had died, or who were rejected by their mother after birth. [Not all cows seem preconditioned to motherhood, just as all women aren't, either.] They were isolated in make-shift, warm areas in the near-empty hay shed, so they would not pass along scours. Each had to be bottle-fed twice a day. Of these calves, only Wilbur and Charlotte survived and then thrived, put together in their own shady and grassy enclosure near the hay shed and close by. In early July, we put them in a larger pasture with their fellow calves, some older and some the same age.

Charlotte, a few days old, was born in early April.

Wilbur has always been bigger than Charlotte,
even though he was born a few weeks later

We soon realized that Charlotte and Wilbur were always on the outside of the herd, maybe a hundred feet away, maybe further, but always together. We would see them grazing on the hillside in the East Field while the other calves were bunched together near the road or lying near the herd but not a part of it.

Wilbur has a blind eye. We don't know what took place but this can happen with pasture-raised cattle. My husband put him in with a younger bull in another pasture a few weeks ago to separate him in case it is an infectious disease and to protect his eye.

Charlotte seemed mournful. Still not a part of the herd, she isolated herself and we didn't see her as much. This morning my husband went to the East Field and down to the creek to look for her, fearing the worst. He found her in the creek, on her side, panting and very frail. It was clear she had been kept by the other calves from the grain supplement or just choosing not to eat.

Yet we believe there must be something more. Can non-related livestock form a close bond with each other? [We have seen this in the deer we have raised and set free.] Was she too upset to eat because Wilbur had been taken away from her? Or were the other calves just shunning her and did this cause her failure to thrive?

Charlotte and Wilbur are together again. She has had some shots of penicillin, some grain, some fresh water, and is in the pasture with Wilbur and the small bull. We hope she will turn the corner, once again, for a full recovery as she did after she was born. She is only among a few farm animals that we have named. That, some argue, is not a good idea on a farm––and being on a farm also persistently tests my qualms about eating animals. But as she's bonded with Wilbur, we have bonded with them both. And I recall my favorite childhood book, Charlotte's Web, and wonder what E.B. White might have thought.

You come back when you're ready!


July 27, 2011

Freerange Parenting–aka 'Roscaling'

Roscoe seems to say: please let me out!
Our boys have invented a new verb this summer: 'Roscaling' –– Here's the official Pond family definition:

verb [ intrans. ] rare
act or behave in a free, exuberant, sometimes naughty, fashion––usually by roaming the countryside without supervision

noun [ attrib. ]
one who roscals
ORIGIN early 21st cent: from Kentucky, perhaps a blend of Roscoe and rascal.

Here at Valley View Farm we free range our cattle, our boys, our chickens, our deer and even our puppies. Recently I have questioned this practice with our dogs. Roscoe, just over five months old, has taken to enjoying long side trips on the ridge. This last one was six days. Imagine my delight when I was awoken this morning to "Roscoe's back!" after almost a week of worry, searching, calling, asking neighbors, and saying a few prayers. I now realize that it is irresponsible to the pets, and to others, to let them roam free, even though we believe in neutering.

Grass-fed cows who roam freely––with good fences––seem to be happy cows.

My favorite photo of John, Tom and Patch.
We've lost three other dogs, all brothers, to either coyotes, poisonous snakes, or whatever elements are out lurking in our woods and fields. We just don't know. I'd like to think that those three have formed a Pond Puppy Posse out in the woods or are being well-cared for somewhere else. The reality is that this just isn't the case.

Roscoe, John (before he disappeared) and Willard.

We have a large farm that is isolated enough that we have felt we could let our dogs run free (the last three were fixed and our now five month old Black Mouth Cur puppies, Willard and Roscoe, soon will be). We do have neighbors who know our dogs and who are close enough to our farm. One neighbor found our first dog, Lucy (who died here at 13), after she ran off after a bad storm (she, being a Bull Mastiff, was always close to home). That same neighbor also found our deer on several occasions after they had fled––they have now jumped out for good but that was because they were old enough and ready. I still owe this kind soul a chocolate cake, now that I think about it! [The deer have a territory of about 400 acres that straddles part of our farm and our neighbor's. They are fine, frequently sighted, and where they should be.]

Our boys are the main reason we are here: to raise them on a farm, in the dirt,
and to hopefully become responsible citizens of the Earth. This will always be home.

Our boys, meanwhile, live an unstructured life, apart from farm chores and haying (we are on our third cutting now and Henry mows and Eli teds––Dad helps with raking and baling and everyone takes turns moving bales with the JCB). Rather than do something different every day, especially during the school year, they are content to come home and putter around the farm, help with chores, or build forts or play. I often feel parental guilt about this, urging them to be interested in other things. But then I remember my own childhood: it was spent riding my bike around the neighborhood, visiting friends at their houses (in Akron) and later on my grandparents' farm where I made forts, rode our ponies, baked in the kitchen (I even brought ponies in the kitchen). I had a few after school activities in high school, but enough. There was much time for daydreaming, reading and having fun at home (but I've always been a somewhat solitary homebody at times, too).

Willard, right, will stay near if Roscoe is tied. 

But back to our Roscoe. His (much smaller) brother Willard is content to stay around but will be led astray by his brother. Roscoe has that glint in his eye and the firm desire to see what is over the next hill. I can understand this but I am officially now too old to worry about puppies on top of everything else.

Willard lunges for Roscoe during a recent play time.
He looks more fierce than he is!

So Roscoe's roscaling has been officially curtailed. This means that he either gets tied, or kenneled (for now he is tied during the day––at night they are confined to our back porch). We will figure out a good compromise. One good thing about tying a dog, as much as I hate to do that, is that we will be pressed to walk them regularly. This is good for all of us.

The entire family participates in moving the cattle from one pasture to another. 
A farm is a wonderful place to be raised and free range is generally best. But I'm realizing that there are dangers, too, and that I must be proactive in protecting everyone from predators. Not overreactive, just protective when necessary. It is the same with our boys: we want them to be free on the farm but to also carry with them limits and boundaries and good sense. Good fences are in place for a reason, just as long as the gate swings out and back in again, with plenty of room to roam.

You come back when you're ready!


July 25, 2011

Farmwife Monday: Longing

Photo source unknown––my apologies. It is in a computer file of mine.

This woman reminds me of Mrs. Waty Taylor, who lived most of her life in the old Cape––painted pink to suit her––across from our New Hampshire farmhouse. She baked pies each week and the best New England style baked beans, and brought them to my grandmother, and later to us, and she always wore an old feed sack bib apron. For many years she was a cook at the Woodbound Inn down on the lake.

There was a kindness in Mrs. Taylor's face but also the weariness of many years and inevitable sorrows. She awoke with the rising sun and was in bed by the time it set: many winter mornings she had her lights blazing early but rarely would you see them on of an evening. We liked to check on her or visit and she was so good to our oldest daughter when she was a young girl. Mrs. Taylor liked her house and you rarely saw her out of it: she would visit, briefly, on our farm and always seemed to want to return to her own home.

Every woman has a time of longing: perhaps for another time or favorite people or past memories. So much of our lives are spent in the day-to-day, whatever it is, that sometimes we just forget to pause and look out the window. Maybe this woman sees something or maybe she is lost in thought.

What do you see in this photograph?

You come back when you're ready!


July 23, 2011

What Makes It 'Cottage' ~ Guest Room

For the last several months I've been slowly getting our farm cottage together after three years of living in a doublewide. It was the homeplace of Ida Dye where she lived until her passing in January 2010 (see "Keeping Vigil" from my In the Pantry blog). For logistical reasons––more bathrooms and closets, for one––we will continue to live in the doublewide across from the farm buildings, for now. We will use the cottage for special occasions, guests, and family meals when we're working at the farm across the street––even holidays. We celebrated Easter there this year and it was wonderful.

A watercolor of Ida's cottage before modernization.
Chickabiddy Cottage, or "Ida's house," has also transformed into my personal oasis, and three guest rooms, a larger working kitchen with new pantry space, and future office (my next project: unpacking it). We have only really invested the cost of paint in most areas of the house, leaving two rooms wallpapered. Paint is always the cheapest way to redecorate.

Vintage monogrammed guest towels on an old bathroom towel rack. I purchased the large c. 1930s
hooked area rug at a yard sale twenty years ago––for $5! It just needed a really good cleaning.

The second floor is unheated and no central air, at present, and it would be a big expense to update it (we did repaint it and put in new flooring). So the upstairs bedrooms are perfect for spring, fall and winter (when hopefully the heat will rise as it does in the summer!). Thankfully the downstairs keeps cool from the central air, its partially-shaded location and also wonderful air flow down the knob. 

This Block Island cottage was painted by my father-in-law in the 1970s.
I'm still not sure where I want it, so it is propped on the dresser for now.
The glass flowers were a gift from our daughter and sit in a cut glass vase,
a wedding present from a dear friend, Dot Grim, who lived in a sweet little cottage
across from us on Hancock's Main Street (whom I often wrote about on my In The Pantry blog).

The bedrooms and some other areas still don't have framed art or prints on the wall yet. That is the last thing I usually place in a room: art work. It takes me some thought and it's a great thing that my husband is expert at hanging stuff because I am not. He is precise and doesn't mind the extra time to be so.

The guest room is painted in Benjamin Moore, "Opal Essence." A light blue green, almost a sea foam,
it is evocative of the interior paint my grandparents had in their 1923 era house in Akron, Ohio––
where this furniture set comes from (and they never updated the interior color, to my knowledge).

Aside from fresh paint in most rooms––I like a pastel palette and rich creams––and the new pantry that I designed, with open shelves and spaces (more on the pantry and other paint colors and rooms over time), it is the same house that Ida had. There are good vibes here. One day I dream of a wrap-around porch, new siding and larger 2/2 farmhouse windows, but in time. The guest room, and my adjacent office, face north so the light is constant.

The knob view from the guest room window to the north.

A Victorian "what not" shelf with my
English porcelain flower collection.
The Pond men have their shop, hay shed, equipment shed and cattle sorting building, so I don't feel too guilty about having my own little play and putter house. I highly recommend the idea for marital harmony. But it also has a real purpose: one day it will be our "Doty" house, if one of the children should take over the farm. It is perfect for one or two people––and family camp outs, occasions and meals. It may be that it will be the home where we live when the boys are grown, if we never build our "dream" farmhouse (in my head and on paper). I envision it as always being here for those who need it––but in the meantime, it is totally mine. But I can share, too.

Hand painted furniture is from the turn of the 19th century
and was likely my grandparents' original bedroom set. 

[They were married in 1923 when their house was also built.] 
The aqua color inspired the paint selection for the bedroom
and is one of my favorite, most soothing, shades.
An old linen bureau scarf is pressed
beneath a bureau top glass, cut to fit.

Our daughter's favorite childhood dolls and her old bedspreads accent the room.

This framed image was taken of our daughter in 1989 
in my first article for the original Victoria Magazine 
(on the Gibson House Museum in Boston). 
© Gross + Daley, original photograph

Fresh flowers in an old pitcher or vase add much charm, color, even fragrance.
Our daughter, the first to christen the guest room, arrived in mid-April in time for lilac season and the woodland wildflowers––one of my favorite times in Kentucky––our glorious, long Appalachian spring!

Make sure you have a chair or two for sitting––bedrooms of the past were often living areas, too.

A nightstand is essential, complete with books and magazines. The Wallace Nutting print
from the 1910s depicts our former home: titled 'A New Hampshire Brick-Ender'

A guest room kept ready for company or visiting family is such a warm and welcome luxury. It's even a great place for a quiet afternoon nap, conveniently located across from my soon-to-be office. But, most of all, I admit, it is a little shrine to the past––to family members framed within, to the house we left behind, to rooms that I remember. Above all, it is our daughter's room for whenever she can be here.

You come back when you're ready!

Better yet, come visit!


July 20, 2011

Corn and Coco

Fresh, "Incredible" variety corn from Casey County, Kentucky.

This kind of photo opportunity doesn't happen every day. I'm not into labels, I'm into quality. I'm sure that designer clothes are well made (I should hope) and tailored to justify their pricing, but, like the decorating industry, there is a lot of "The Emperor's New Clothes" pretense and inflated values, along with bizarre design standards of acceptance (the more expensive, the better?).
I do have pearls, from my grandmother, but I rarely wear them.
And I like lipstick, too: my only makeup indulgence.
And if only my bob would coif like that!
Like Coco, I used to smoke: a nasty, yet delicious, habit.
My standard uniform in summer is
v-neck T-shirt with a skirt,
flip flops or garden clogs,
and just a smidge of lipstick.
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883-1971) was raised in poverty and lost her parents at the age of 12 after which time her brothers were sent to work on a farm and she was sent to a French orphanage. What grit it must have taken to have become a fashion icon. You have to admire any person for being able to come from such misfortune and then transcend it. I'm sure Chanel clothes are lovely. I'm just not that into fashion––high or low. Just as long as it wears well and looks decent enough. I'd wear a uniform if I could and practically do most of the time around the farm.

Butter and salt is all corn needs...
and it's all we had for dinner tonight!
So image my squeal of (ironic) delight when our friends, Melvin and Anna (Old Order Mennonites), gave us two dozen ears of corn yesterday in a black Chanel bag. They have no idea the origin of this bag and certainly had not heard of the designer. "We live a rather sheltered life," chuckled Melvin. I think Coco Chanel might have chuckled, too. I don't know how she'd feel about her ripped, well-recycled store bag being thrown into the burn barrel. But she would have loved the corn.

You come back when you're ready!


July 19, 2011

Summer 2011 Bucket List

It's a reality that summer is half over (if you gauge from Memorial Day to Labor Day). The chorus of tree frogs and crickets? (or maybe they're cicadas!) are in full swing, produce is coming in by the bushel, the dog days of summer are here, and July seems to be ticking past. Even the Joe Pye weed, my favorite late summer wildflower, is starting to emerge along the roadsides. But don't fret, there are still many summer days left to enjoy (and we just found out that our boys' school doesn't start until August 17 so that gives us four more full weeks from today––they've been off since May 6!).

Here's my Summer 2011 Bucket List of things to do before it's all over and fall is here (one long and glorious Kentucky fall, I might add). With a few exceptions, all are with the family:

• Make sangria and share it with my husband on the porch
• Get up at dawn and share coffee with my husband on the porch
• Take a blanket and go star-gazing on the knob (especially during the Perseids showers)
• Catch the moonbow at Cumberland Falls at the next full moon––August 13
• Go bowling a few more times (this is becoming a Pond pastime and it's a great way to spend a hot afternoon)
• Go to a drive-in movie at the 27-Drive In in Somerset
• Pack a picnic and just drive with a vague destination  (eg. bushwhacking!)

• Don't pack a picnic and just drive with no destination (and find a great place for lunch)

• Start perennial seeds for next year's garden

• Pick a lot of blackberries and make jam

• Make pickles and ketchup

• Head down to Tennessee and find a beat up old porch glider at the Hwy 127 Yard Sale (August 4-7)

• Write more notes and letters to old friends
• Take in an outdoor summer concert somewhere
• Read that pile of books I've been meaning to get to––in between naps
• Try some new summer recipes that I've been clipping
• Take at least one more short trip somewhere within 5 hours
• Listen for the whippoorwill "of an evening" (he's out there somewhere!)
• Write and submit a few more essays on spec to editors
• Plan my "back to school" writing schedule (for when kids return)

• Swim nude in the cattle tank
• Learn to ted hay with the tractor
• Have a slumber party at the cottage

• Bake a "thunder cake" with the boys during the next thunderstorm––from the looks of the northern sky right now over the knob, I think that would be now (but it's 9:20pm so probably the next one...according to the Weather Channel we're about to have ten days of hot and humid with isolated and scattered thunderstorms––what would spring and summer be without them?).

Now, what's on your list?

You come back when you're ready!


July 18, 2011

Farmwife Monday

The winsome cover of Favorite Recipes for Country Kitchens.
The cookbook features many images throughout and great recipes.
One of my pastimes is trolling the internet for interesting images and collecting vintage cookbooks. When I was doing research for my book, The Pantry, a few years ago, I enjoyed searching the Library of Congress archive, and so many others, for pantry and kitchen images. Invariably they would include farmwives.

Monday on a farm or in a household was often known as "blue Monday" because this was traditionally the day that wash was done. Does it come from the "bluing" that was used or how women felt when they did their laundry? I'm not certain. I do know that my Old Order Mennonite friends do laundry with the old washtubs and wringers and I really don't feel I can complain. It's one of the chores I like to do, actually, but around here it gets done when it needs to.

So in honor of "Blue Monday" I want to inaugurate "Farmwife Monday" when I will (try to remember to) share different images that I have found here and there. Some of these may or may not be in the public domain so I like to give credit when I can.

Here is the entire image on the front and back cover.

This charming image graces the cover of Favorite Recipes for Country Kitchens, written in 1945 and published by General Foods (there is another similar version published in 1943 for Calumet). It is nostalgic for what many of us idealize about farm living: a well-coiffed, apron-clad mother ringing the dinner bell, in a white farmhouse––complete with picket fence––overlooking rolling hills, a well-kept valley farm and garden, and surrounded by a smiling family and farmhands. We know that farming is really hard work, dirty and sweaty but one can't help but be enamored with this kind of winsome image, even those who know the reality of farm life. I also like this image because I have some hollyhocks around my farm cottage and the rolling, open landscape is evocative of our own valley farm. [I also like that 1945 is the same year that my grandparents––along with my mother and her siblings––moved from New Jersey to a farm in New Hampshire. I have often written about that farm on my other blog, In the Pantry, and it will always be a source of happy memory and occasional pangs of nostalgic longing.]

A few months ago I came across the blog, Midlife Farmwife. It is written by Donna O'Shaughnessy who lives on an organic pork and beef farm in Illinois. I immediately contacted her because I felt badly for using a similar blog name, only in reverse. She was extremely kind about it, and most forgiving, and even gave me a nod. Since then I enjoy checking out her blog regularly. There are so many wonderful farm blogs out there and so little time! And so many farmwives of all kinds, on farms of all types or even those who have farm life in their soul somehow. The internet is such a blessing for connection in what can be an isolating life at times: it's like a modern day party line.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and happy Monday!

You come back when you're ready!